ATK Successfully Conducts NASA Ares I-X Separation Test


Alliant Techsystems successfully conducted a full-scale separation of NASA’s Ares I-X Forward Skirt Extension at its Promontory facility today. The test is a milestone in preparation for this summer’s flight test of Ares I-X.

The test simulated a separation event that will take place following the first stage flight of Ares I-X. The booster will be separated at the frustum – a cone-shaped piece that attaches the first stage to the larger diameter upper stage. Following separation, the booster will return to earth for recovery and reuse.

At an altitude of about 15,000 feet the nose cone will be jettisoned, deploying the pilot parachute. The pilot chute will in turn deploy the drogue parachute, which will re-orient the booster to vertical and slow it to acceptable conditions for main parachute deployment. At about 4,000 feet, the separation at the base of the forward skirt extension occurs, pulling out the three main chutes packed within.

Test objectives included the demonstration that the linear shaped charge used to separate the forward skirt extension created a clean severance, and measurement of the shock created by that charge. The data will be used to analyze the system and prepare for the Ares I-X test, as well as in the development of Ares I.

The forward skirt extension is built to withstand the loads of the first stage, and support the weight of the upper stage. The component is built as one solid piece of aircraft-t grade aluminum forged into a 6 foot long by 12 foot diameter cylinder with a unique internal support structure that houses three newly-designed main parachutes. Its state-of-the-art design will withstand the force that will be imparted at main chute deployment.

“This was an important milestone for the program, as it validates key parameters to support the upcoming Ares I-X flight test,” said Mike Kahn, ATK Space Systems executive vice president. “The program is one step closer to the flight test of Ares I-X and demonstrating many of the key attributes of this system.”

Separately, the four solid rocket segments for Ares I-X will ship to Kennedy Space Center in March. Integration of the segments with the simulated fifth segment and upper stage will then begin in the Vehicle Assembly Building in preparation for the Ares I-X test flight. The segments and aft exit cone have been instrumented with more than 100 sensors. The motor has a distinctive “Z strip” paint job that enhances the ability of the test team to observe rolling motions during ascent and tumbling motions during separation and recovery. This will provide valuable flight data for NASA to verify models for the Ares I program.

“Shipment of the segments will put ATK and NASA on track to begin stacking the vehicle for its important test flight this summer,” Kahn added.

ATK is a premier aerospace and defense company with more than 17,000 employees in 21 states and approximately $4.5 billion in revenue. News and information can be found on the Internet at

  • User

    Kinda curious as to what happened @ 1-2 sep? looks like a minor anomaly? Last i checked the 1st stage booster shouldn’t make the 2nd stage spin out of control! Time to go with the Delta IV!